De Blasio defends tone of inauguration
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the anti-Bloomberg tone of his inauguration ceremony on Thursday, and argued the barbed speeches were not intended to be an attack on his predecessor.
"I think everyone who spoke at the inauguration spoke from the heart, talked about their own understanding of our city and what we need to do to move our city forward," de Blasio told reporters, when asked about the pointed comments made during the New Year's Day ceremony outside City Hall.
"I'm very comfortable with all that was done," de Blasio added.
He defended the Department of Sanitation chaplain, Fred Lucas, who likened the city to a "plantation" during his invocation.
"I respect each and every one of them and their right to say that which they feel is appropriate," the new mayor said when asked about that specific comment.
His press aides ignored questions on whether de Blasio's team vetted the speeches before they were made in front of the 5,000-person crowd.
In addition to Lucas, Public Advocate Letitia James took aim at Bloomberg--though not by name--for the city's wide gaps in income.
James, who was sworn in with de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer, criticized the city's aggressive use of stop-and-frisk, and the Atlantic Yards development in her Brooklyn district (which de Blasio supported).
"We live in a gilded age of inequality," James said.
Civil rights activist and singer Harry Belafonte, in introducing de Blasio, described the city as Dickensian.
He said de Blasio was "overwhelmingly mandated to make many who for much too long danced with despair believe again that the American dream is attainable," and he denounced New York for its role in the nation's high rate of incarceration.
It was left to Bill Clinton, who was the first to thank the outgoing mayor, and de Blasio, whose speech concluded the event, to moderate the tone of the proceedings and acknowledge Bloomberg, who sat stone-faced for most of the ceremony.
"I don't accept the question as stated, respectfully," de Blasio told a reporter who asked about the tone of the inaugurationon Thursday. "I made clear my real respect for Mayor Bloomberg," he said. "It's not a secret that I've had some disagreements with him on policy, but I honored with a whole heart what he did for this city."
In an appearance on CNN on Thursday afternoon, Bloomberg's former deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, disputed several of the claims, saying incarceration rates were reduced under Bloomberg, and that poverty rates held steady, amid increases in other cities.